Hilton vs. Hyatt

86

For years, I’ve been a huge Hyatt fan. Their top tier elite status offers the best benefits of all major chains. Their points are super valuable towards Hyatt stays. They let you use points (at a very reasonable rate) to upgrade to club rooms or suites. And they’ve maintained award charts when everyone else has ditched them! And, finally, I loved their partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH). Hyatt points fueled nearly every night of my trip to New Zealand in 2022/2023 when my wife and I spent three nights at the Park Hyatt Auckland and seven nights in SLH hotels.

Now, things have changed. Hyatt has jettisoned their SLH partnership in favor of Mr & Mrs Smith. That might have been a good thing except that they also jettisoned award charts for these independent hotels. Now, with Mr & Mrs Smith you’re unlikely to get more than 1.4 cents per point value (which is poor for Hyatt points).  With respect to booking independent luxury hotels with points, Hyatt is now mostly dead to me (see: Hyatt’s Mr & Mrs Smith now live – details broke my heart). Meanwhile, Hilton has come out of nowhere and taken up the SLH partnership mantel. Even better, they’ve promised to treat SLH hotels just like their own hotels with respect to point caps for standard rooms, free night certificates, 5th night free awards, and elite benefits. See: Fantastic updates about Hilton’s integration of SLH.

Most of the reasons for me being a Hyatt fan haven’t changed, but the SLH news, and the negative news about Hyatt’s approach to Mr & Mrs Smith, have me thinking that its time for me to pay a lot more attention to Hilton. In this post, I’ve compared the two chains head to head on the factors that are most important to me…

Overview

The following chart summarizes a bunch of differences between Hilton and Hyatt. To understand the chart, first note that while Hyatt has a fixed award chart (for their own hotels, not for Mr & Mrs Smith properties), Hilton does not. But.. Hilton has something like an award chart: each property has a maximum point price for standard rooms. Premium rooms can cost any number of points, but standard rooms are capped. The most expensive Hilton property overall (Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi) is currently capped at 150,000 points per night. Most of the extremely expensive Hilton hotels, though, are capped at 120,000 points or less. And if you believe that Hilton points can be earned at three times the rate of Hyatt points (which I explain later in this post), then you can see that Hilton’s 120,000 point cap is similar to Hyatt’s top category 40K per night price (40K x 3 = 120K). And since Hyatt also has peak pricing up to 45K points per night, you could argue that Hilton’s 120K capped hotels offer better value than Hyatt’s category 8 hotels.

Hilton Hyatt
Relative Point Earning Rate
(details later in this post)
3x 1x
Approximate Point Redemption Value (cents per point) 0.5 2.1
Standardized Redemption Value (Hilton Value x Earning Rate) 0.5 cents per point
= 1.5 cents per 3 points
2.1 cents per point
Max Standard Award Price 120K to 150K 45K
Standardized Max Award Price (Hilton award price  ÷ earning rate) 40K to 50K 45K
5th Night Free Awards Yes No
Resort Fees Waived on Award Stays Yes Yes
Free Night Certificates
Annual Uncapped (Aspire card) Category 1-4 (WOH Card)
With $15K Spend Uncapped (Surpass card) Category 1-4 (WOH Card)
Harder to get Uncapped (Aspire $30K spend) Category 1-4 (Brand Explorer, 30 night milestone reward)
Even harder Uncapped (Aspire $60Kspend) Category 1-7 (60, 100 night milestone reward)
Near impossible N/A Uncapped Ultimate Free Night Award (150 night milestone reward)
Suite Upgrade Certificates N/A Via Milestone Rewards starting at 40 nights
Suite Upgrade w/ Points N/A 6K / night standard suite; 9K / night premium suite
Meaningful Elite Status Free w/ several credit cards: Gold status (free breakfast or food credits) 40 Nights: Guest of Honor Award + Suite Upgrade Award
Top Tier Status Diamond: Free w/ Aspire card Globalist: 60 Nights
Top Tier Perks Upgrades; Lounge Access Upgrades; Lounge Access; Free breakfast; Waived Resort Fee on Paid Stays; Waived Parking Fees on Points Stays; 4PM late checkout
Luxury Partner Hotel Collection Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) Mr & Mrs Smith
Capped Award Prices? Yes No
Use Free Night Certs? Yes No
Elite Benefits? Yes Not really
Sharing Options
Share Points for Free Yes Yes
Share Free Night Certs Yes Yes
Share Elite Status No Yes
(Guest of Honor Awards)
Share Upgrade Certs N/A Yes
Misc Other
Select your own room in advance Yes No

Earning Rate

The following sections show that, on average, its possible to earn 3 Hilton points for the same effort/expense that it takes to earn 1 Hyatt point. If you’re not a credit card rewards nerd like me, the details below may be very hard to understand. My apologies….

Credit Card Spend

  • Hyatt point earning through Hyatt card and transferable point card spend
    • World of Hyatt card: 1x base, 2x bonus categories, up to 4x brand
    • Hyatt transferable points (Chase Ultimate Rewards, Bilt):
      • Base spend: 1.5x (Freedom) or 2x Bilt  (on 1st of month)
      • Category bonus spend at stores where you can buy many different things: 3x drugstore (Freedom), 5x office supply (Ink Business Cash)
  • Hyatt summary: 1.5x everywhere, 3x drugstore, 5x office supply
  • Hilton point earning through Hilton cards and transferable point card spend
    • Hilton cards: 3x to 5x base, up to 6x grocery, up to 7x dine/travel, up to 14x brand
    • Hilton transferable points (Amex): 4x base (i.e. earn 2x MR and transfer 1:2), 8x various categories (Biz Gold, Gold), 10x airfare
  • Hilton summary: 5x everywhere (Hilton biz), 8x grocery (Amex Gold card) and a broad range of purchases (Amex Business Gold card)
  • Without transfer bonus summary comparison:
    • Base spend: Hilton = 5x; Hyatt = 1.5x; Ratio = 3.33 Hilton points per Hyatt point
    • Misc store spend: Hilton = 8x; Hyatt = 5x; Ratio = 1.6 Hilton points per Hyatt point
    • With 30% Amex transfer bonus to Hilton (8x becomes 10.4x)
      • Misc store spend: Hilton = 10.4x; Hyatt=5x; Ratio = 2.1 Hilton points per Hyatt point
  • With misc store spend, the ratio is only about 2 to 1, but with Hilton the categories of spend are much, much broader than just office supply and so it’s arguably easier to spend more in those categories (such as at grocery stores).
  • Fudgy summary: With Hilton cards, earn 2 to 4 times as many points as Hyatt
  • Conclusion: On average, earn 3 Hilton points for every 1 Hyatt point

Credit Card Bonuses

  • Welcome bonuses
    • Hilton: Many more cards with Membership Rewards
    • Hyatt: Possible to get Ink cards and bonuses multiple times
  • Referral bonuses
    • Hilton: Can refer from any Membership Rewards card to almost any Amex card (lower bonuses but more opportunities). Sometimes get extra bonuses like +10x restaurants
    • Hyatt: 40K Ink
  • Conclusion: It’s difficult to measure the relative earning rate from credit card welcome bonuses and referral bonuses. Both offer multiple good options, but Hilton offers many more options for those who cannot apply for business cards.

Hotel spend

  • Hyatt: 5x
  • Hyatt with credit card status (Discover status): 5.5x
  • Hyatt w/ top tier elite status: 6.5x
  • Hilton: 10x
  • Hilton with sub $200 annual fee credit card status (Gold status): 18x
  • Hilton w/ top tier elite status: 20x
  • No status comparison: Hilton = 2x Hyatt
  • Credit card status: Hilton = 3.3x Hyatt
  • Top status comparison: Hilton = 3.1x Hyatt

Plus: Hilton often has great 2x or even 3x promos so, in practice, the Hilton earning rate for hotel spend is probably much more than 3x Hyatt.

Point Value

It’s clear that Hyatt and Hilton points are on different scales. It is approximately 3 times cheaper to acquire Hilton points than Hyatt points. So, to compare the value of their points, I think it is fair to multiply Hilton point redemption values by 3. In fact, in the award chart comparison, you can see that Hilton’s max standard room point prices do match up at that 1 to 3 ratio compared to Hyatt. That said, the value you get from the points compared to cash rates depends on where each hotel falls within the award charts. For example, if Hyatt puts a $100 per night hotel into their category 1, but Hilton puts a $100 per night hotel into their category 3 equivalent (up to 40K per night), you’ll get much better value with Hyatt even after accounting for the 1 to 3 point ratio.

Award Chart Comparison

I took a stab at putting Hilton’s max standard room point prices into a chart so that we can compare Hyatt and Hilton’s categories side by side:

Hyatt Category Hyatt Hilton Multiple
1 3,500 to 6,500 10K to 20K 3x
2 6,500 to 9,500 21K to 30K 3.2x
3 9,000 to 15,000 31K to 40K 3.4x to 2.7
4 12,000 to 18,000 41K to 50K 3.4x to 2.8
5 17,000 to 23,000 51K to 65K 3 to 2.8
6 21,000 to 29,000 66K to 80K 3.14 to 2.8
7 25,000 to 35,000 81K to 100K 3.2 to 2.9
8 35,000 to 45,000 101K to 150K 2.9 to 3.3

 

Point Value Comparison

When I last collected data to calculate median redemption values, I got the following results:

Meanwhile, AwardWallet found that its users achieved the following redemption values:

  • Hilton: 0.58 cents per point
  • Hyatt: 2.19 cents per point

Keeping in mind that we can earn 3 Hilton points for every Hyatt point, it makes more sense to compare these values after multiplying the Hilton numbers by three:

Frequent Miler’s observed redemption values:

  • Hilton: 1.5 cents per 3 points
  • Hyatt: 2.1 cents per point

AwardWallet:

  • Hilton: 1.74 cents per 3 points
  • Hyatt: 2.19 cents per point

Regardless of which numbers you like, above, you can see that Hyatt points are significantly more valuable than 3x Hilton points.

Summary

Via the analysis above, I determined the following:

  • Hilton and Hyatt points are on different scales. Based on point earning rates, 3 Hilton points = 1 Hyatt point.
  • At the top of their award charts, the value per Hyatt point is roughly equivalent to the value per 3 Hilton points.
  • When not constraining to the top of the award charts, Hyatt points are significantly more valuable than 3x Hilton points.
  • In addition to offering more valuable points, Hyatt has a number of advantages over Hilton:
    • Suite upgrade awards (upgrade to a suite at the time of booking)
    • Suite upgrades with points
    • Much better top-tier elite benefits
    • Better sharing options including the ability to share top tier status for a stay (Guest of Honor) and the ability to share upgrade certificates and more.
  • Meanwhile, Hilton has these advantages over Hyatt:
    • 5th Night Free awards make long stays cheaper with points
    • Free night certificates are uncapped (that’s a huge difference)
    • Meaningful elite status is much easier to get
    • Top tier status is much easier to get
    • Hilton’s promised implementation of their SLH partnership is waaaaay better than Hyatt’s Mr & Mrs Smith partnership.

Conclusion

I had previously mostly ignored Hilton. Hyatt was my go-to chain. Marriott was my back-up. That’s going to change. I’m very excited about Hilton’s partnership with SLH. I particularly love that we’ll be able to use free night certificates at those properties. Separately, I’ve noticed that Hilton has added more and more upscale hotels to their portfolio (including Graduate Hotels, which they bought recently) and so I probably would have been eying Hilton anyway. And now that Hyatt has crushed me with their Mr & Mrs Smith roll out, I’m ready to dance with Hilton. In fact, my wife an I have each already applied for the 175K Hilton business card offer that’s available at the time of this writing. I hope to spend $15K on each card before the end of June in order to secure free night certificates before its too late with those cards. Along the way we’ll probably each also pick up an Aspire card in order to each get an annual free night, Diamond elite status, and more.

Despite my dalliance with Hilton, I’m NOT saying goodbye to Hyatt! Yes, I’m sad about the Mr & Mrs Smith situation, but I still love the incredible value that’s possible through Hyatt’s own hotels. I love Hyatt’s confirmable suite upgrades, guest of honor awards, and top-tier Globalist benefits. Hyatt does loyalty right. But it’s true, my loyalty is wavering just a bit…

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Nathan Weber

Thank you for putting together this award comparison and thoughtful analysis!

What is missing from the comparison, in my opinion, is room availably. In my limited experience with Hilton, dates with standard room point availability were few and far between at desirable properties. In my extensive experience with Hyatt, there has been points availability ~80% of the time, provided I book far out for peak dates. Have I been looking at the wrong Hilton properties and this isn’t a big differentiator?

Geoff

8x grocery (Amex Gold card)”? I get 4x on my Rose Gold. Is there a flavor or color of Gold card that really gets 8x?

jeff

4x MR becomes 8x hilton..

Brendan

I’m lifetime Platinum with Marriott. I started using Hyatt in late 2020 after hearing about the easy pathway to Globalist status on Mattress Running the Number. The Globalist perks were amazing, but I have been disappointed with the devaluations over the past few years. We’ve stopped spending towards the 1-4 Hyatt FNCs and will probably cancel the WOH card. We started focusing more on the Hilton program last year. (I was ahead of the Frequent Miler for once) I’m much happier with the Hilton CCs. The Aspire cards are no brainers. I have P2 using the Surpass card for her everyday spend towards the 15k FNC. Most of her spend is getting 6x (groceries, gas, restaurants) or 4X for online retailers. I’m much happier with the Hilton FNCs than Hyatt’s. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many Hilton branded properties that we’re excited to stay at. Hopefully, the SLH offerings added will improve the options.

Steven

I think you’ve convinced me to care less about Hyatt and pivot more to Hilton. The ability to buy Hilton points to top up any shortfall in points earnings, and the ease of gaining meaningful elite status put it over the edge for me.

Bob

“Meaningful” elite status, you mean. Diamond rarely gets you an upgrade in the US, Hilton has been actively closing down Executive levels and lounges, free breakfasts in the US are a thing of the past, and the room credits maybe cover half the cost of a meal if you use them for that purpose.

We still have good luck with all of that with Hilton in Europe, but unless you travel an awful lot Diamond’s hardly worth caring about, let alone Gold.

Joe

I love these various newsletters for the kind of in depth evaluations like this. The only thing left is good ol personal experience. I’m in 8 hotel loyalty programs that I narrowed down to my favorite 5, then got their cobranded credit cards. Hilton was my first program and first cobranded card. Hilton is the only brand I’ve had bad experiences with. IHG often disappointing for rejected award stays when rooms were available. During the peak of the pandemic both Hilton and Hyatt cut their top tier in half from 60 nights to 30 . I hit Hilton diamond and Hyatt globalist that year to compare the next year. Hilton breakfasts were typically about $20 off each on breakfast for 2 over $100. Hyatt was all free including all the latte’s my wife drinks and even an 18% tip for the staff. Hilton free room upgrade would be no view on room costing under $5.00 more than a standard room. Hyatt upgraded rooms would be great view rooms. Hilton attitude was “thank you for being diamond”. Hyatt was like visiting old friends. Now I focus on reaching Hyatt globalist every year since. Hilton is just like the other 4 whichever has the most appeal when there are no convenient Hyatt available. BTW, I know boutique hotels like small hotels of the world are in but we both prefer traditional Hyatt especially Regency.

Joe

kayexalate

Joe: thanks for the apples/apples comparison. were your stays mostly domestic, international or both? I’ve never dipped my toes into the Hyatt world and don’t stay enough to ever reach Globalist status so wonder if I’d ever benefit from perks like you have been. With the Hilton Aspire, I can essentially “buy” top status, but I do understand the value with low point redemptions with Hyatt.

Richard

Hilton benefits are better internationally. We stayed in Anguilla this past year with FNCs and was upgraded to ocean view and saved about $3k. We just got back from Cabo at the Waldorf Astoria using points and was upgraded from a King Ocean view to a 2 bedroom villa with over 2600 sq ft of space and a plunge pool. I dont stay in hotels enough or can find a Hyatt in the locations where I travel to get status. I get far better use from my Aspire. It also pays $400 per year for my timeshare maintenance fees.

Joe

Interesting that you say Hilton is better internationally. I’ve never been rejected for a reservation with points or free night at Hyatt if there was any availability in the US. But I was annoyed to get rejected for award stays next November at Paris etoile when there were rooms available for cash. It will be interesting to compare Hyatts in Europe vs US.

DavidS

Just a note to say I really enjoy these geeky deep analysis. Hilton has been my back up in large part to the easier status and point earning at places I’d stay. Every year, I wonder if it is worth it to continue to chase Hyatt status and every year I do. The fact that I have to ask though, says something about my own wavering.

I did have some great points stays when SLH was with Hyatt including a great stay at a palace in Germany. I’m going to have to look more at the Hilton rates now with MMS being a non-starter.

Last edited 1 month ago by DavidS
eponymous coward

So I guess this means the Hilton Business cards need to be added to the “Which Premium Cards are Keepers?” sheet?
(In my case I bump hard against the AMEX 5 card limit so I actually have to say “no” to a positive value card because there are better positive value cards to keep.)

Mitsu

The biggest problem is that they are rolling out so few Mr and Mrs Smith properties from the get go. For example zero of the 40+ Mr and Mrs Smith properties in Rome, zero in Florence, and so on. Florence had one of the nicest Mr and Mrs Smith boutique hotels and it was glorious to use those gift cards to stay there this past spring. I wonder if they are worried about cannibalizing their existing Hyatt partnerships – if they don’t start putting more M&MS properties into the Hyatt system I will say that this could turn into a debacle with the loss of SLH.

The biggest sweet spot for M&MS are the cheaper boutique hotels and thus far not nearly enough of them are in the system. Most of the properties are far away from major cities, which is fine but doesn’t help Hyatt with their biggest weakness: footprint.

I am very interested to see what M&MS properties they add next quarter. If it follows the same pattern of not including the vast majority of M&MS properties in cities, that will be a big disappointment.

I am seriously considering Hilton as my secondary brand and moving away from IHG.

ReconScott

I love your use of “dalliance” to describe your relationship with Hyatt and Hilton. I have a similar feeling for my relationship with the centurion and cap 1 lounges at dfw. Centurion was my first love and still provides a solid, dependable experience. When cap 1 came along, she was new and vibrant and exciting and made me feel young again. “Dalliance” definitely fits.

Paul B

For me the biggest difference between Hyatt and Hilton is that transferring from Chase Sapphire Reserve to Hyatt is usually an outstanding redemption. While transferring from American Express to Hilton is a terrible redemption.

actualmichael

I disagree. You can often get slightly to well above 1 cent per point with Hilton on standard, high-end awards, especially with the 5th night free benefit. Most Hiltons top out at 120K points per night, and a lot of Waldorfs and Conrads come out to $1200+ a night with taxes and fees included. Since MR transfer to HH 1:2, you can pretty easily be getting at least 2 cents per MR out of the ultimate redemption. It’s not earth-shattering value, but still pretty solid value for MR if you cherry-pick hotels, and hardly what I would call a “terrible redemption”.

Lauren

Hilton FNCs – how many are realistic here? In 2 player mode, maybe you have 2 Aspires and 2 Surpasses with $30k of spend. That’s 4 FNCs. 5 free nights with the 5th night free award. That’s exceptional value.
But beyond the 5 free nights, is there significant incremental value in the Hilton program over Hyatt program?

Last edited 1 month ago by Lauren
Lauren

Good point on the NO 5th night free on FNC, thank you.

Hyatt can do a better job in delivering value on their FNCs to be more competitive with Hilton.

At least give Globalists the ability to ‘build your own’ FNC. Combine your 1-4 with your 1-7, and add ___ Hyatt points to build a “Super Ultimate” FNC redeemable at MMS.

eponymous coward

5th free night only works with points not FNCs.

There’s value if you’re doing hotel spend because Hilton does pretty regular 2x/3x promos where you could be earning 15-20-% back in rebates.

If your Hyatt Globalist is basically churning Inks and never paying for a stay it’s going to be difficult to beat that, or Globalist benefits, but Hilton can be a pretty reasonable program.

Lauren

Thank you!

David

there are at times NLL Aspire links. We opened 2 more last mo. Now we have 4 between the two of us and will have an annual vaca with 4 FNC. Using the flight credits and resort credits will more than cover the annual fees.

Jeb

Hilton’s biggest current problem with their rewards program, IMO, is trying to find value on the low end. I’ve often found it hard to find hotels under 40,000 Hilton points (although of course now that I’m looking again without an exact trip in mind, some of the haunts that were wildly overpriced are now back in that 30,000 – 40,000 range.) That said, if Hyatt continues their march to removing a lot of the category 1-4 properties in/near city centers (and without certificates even category 4 can be an iffy value proposition,) Hilton may start to be in contention again for some of those lower-end stays where Choice/Wyndham just don’t reach.

That all said, Hilton’s strength is having a relatively strong mid-tier status level. Sure, the room upgrade with Explorist is nice in theory, but in my experience it really doesn’t do a whole lot – feels about the same as Hilton’s space-available room upgrades. I’ll happily trade the premium wifi (which at most places I’ve found even standard is fine these days) for the $15-$25 food and beverage credit, and internationally free breakfast is still a very solid deal. The fifth night free also can really help to make Hilton’s points stretch far enough to compete with Hyatt, assuming a five-day stay works for you. From everything I’ve heard, Globalist can’t be beat for high-tier status, but beyond that Hyatt’s kind of mediocre for status benefits.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jeb
whocares

gotta look outside the USA for lower cost hilton redemptions. In the USA….30,000 seems to be the minimum.

Henry

Having said that hilton point easier to accrued. with earning rate minimum 3pts per spent with hilton card. so in theory that lower end 40k = 13.5k

Brands

And now, if you apply for the Hilton Business card, you get 5x spend on everything. Not bad.

eponymous coward

100% on that. 30k for a mediocre $125 a night HGI or 8k for a similar Hyatt Place, the HP wins if this is just dipping into your Chase or Bilt stash.

Hilton is better for aspirational travel than that.

JohnB

For low end stays, ie simple city hotels or road trip hotels, IHG is still giving the best value for these types of stays. I find most Hampton Inns to be rather dumpy. Hyatt Place are not easily found and usually over $150/night. Wyndham and Choice properties in the USA are usually dumps, sometimes absolutely disgusting! While HIE and Avid (which all Avids are less than 4 years old) are the best low end properties of the chains. Even better is one can buy IHG for $.05, making award stays, cheap for those who don’t want to chase IHG as a frequent guest.

Dave

Some people predicted this:

Remember when Hyatt added Category 8 when they added SLH as a partner? Now SLH is gone but Category 8 remains!

When has a chain taken their loyalty base for granted THIS BADLY?!?! It’ll be interesting to see if WoH corporate leadership attempt damage control her in the next few weeks.

actualmichael

They see that their award program cost them a lot of money since it is so much better than everyone else’s. What their leadership doesn’t seem to realize is that this is one of the main ways that they stay competitive with Hilton, Marriott, and, to a lesser degree, IHG. If they start to gut their awards program, then they simply cannot compete with the big boys.

VIS

One thing I would add is free parking for Hyatt Globalists. It really adds up in SF or NYC.

toomanybooks

And Chicago.

It is so dead easy to accumulate hundreds of thousands of Chase points on everyday spend ($200 V/MC GCs) and Ink signup bonuses to transfer to Hyatt, I find it hard to look elsewhere. Multiple guaranteed suite upgrades of up to a week are hard to beat also.

don

Solid analysis as always. As someone who really enjoyed my Hyatt-SLH stays, I’m inclined to agree. BUT this analysis basically assumes that free nights (whether points or FNC) will be readily available aSLH properties through Hilton. That was definitely not the case at Hyatt. Even when a standard room was available and I had plenty of points, it was annoying when I had to pay cash for the ‘deluxe’ room that accommodated my family of 3. I’m hoping this is better at Hilton, but certainly no guarantee.